THERE’S no less than six girls with Cork roots vying to be this year’s 60th Rose of Tralee.
And all of them take to the stage of the Dome in Tralee tonight - in the first of the two live TV shows, on RTÉ.
Outside of our Cork Rose, Stephanie McCarthy from Frankfield, Leesiders are representing London, Abu Dhabi, South Australia and Western Canada. The Sydney Rose also has Cork links.
Here’s the Cork line-up...
Stephanie McCarthy, Frankfield, Cork Rose
Mum-of-two, Cork Rose Stephanie McCarthy describes the Rose of Tralee festival as the icing on the cake and insists a tiara won’t change how she’ll use her platform.
“I’m really looking at is as being all about the year and I know I’ll put in just as much effort as the Cork Rose as I would if I become the Rose of Tralee,” she said.
The Neuroscience graduate from UCC is currently studying for a masters in Pharmaceutical Technology at Griffith College, Dublin, and feels she can do as much locally as internationally.
Nonetheless, she is very excited about the festival, particularly as the Rose Tour is back on Leeside for the first time since 2008.
One of three, Stephanie has a twin sister, Shauna, and a brother, Aaron. Her mum Antoinette grew up in Dubai but moved to Ireland as a teenager; while her dad Tom has roots in Kerry and Cork and is a sergeant in Mayfield.
Mum to six year old Kayla and two year old Logan, she’s been especially busy since she was announced as Cork Rose in June but she thrives on it. “When it comes to my family, it’s a case of who isn’t coming with me to Tralee!
“Even my grandmother has recruited a gang but I’m so excited for everyone to be part of the experience.”
She said Kayla was especially excited about the build-up but Stephanie is keen to teach her the importance of the festival.
“I don’t even like calling it a competition and want to help her understand the meaning of it,” she said.
And for her it’s about getting behind the scenes of local charities, and bringing awareness to their work and causes and getting into the community.
She does find it amusing that there are five Cork girls vying for this year’s title. “We met at the Galway Races and between us all we had a connection — Cork is such a small place!”
Karen Cashman, from Carrigtwohill, Abu Dhabi Rose
Using her platform as Abu Dhabi Rose to make positive change is top of 27 year old Karen Cashman’s agenda.
Her sister Edel was the recipient of a liver transplant in the autumn of 2018, and she especially wants to highlight the importance of talking to your next of kin about your wishes regarding organ donation.
The primary school teacher graduated from Mary Immaculate College in 2013 and after teaching in Cobh and Rathcormac, moved to Abu Dhabi in 2018 ‘in search of new adventures’.
“I wanted to experience living in a new culture and also open opportunities for travel. Abu Dhabi is a fantastic base to travel from — last year I managed to see Jordan, Sri Lanka and parts of India. I work in a British International School teaching the equivalent of Junior Infants and I’m really enjoying it.
“It’s a big change from Ireland — the system can be more demanding in lots of ways, but I settled well and am looking forward to returning in September,” she said.
It was her taste for adventure once again that saw her enter the Rose competition.
“I have always watched the Rose of Tralee, even if it did signal the end of the summer! I had considered entering the Cork competition multiple times but never got around to it.
“After moving to Abu Dhabi, and in the spirit of pushing my boundaries, I decided to enter with the encouragement of a few friends, and here I am!”
Karen admits to naturally feeling a little nervous ahead of the live stage interview, but has her public speaking and performing experience from her time in Glanmire Macra na Feirme which she hopes will stand to her.
She says she feels nothing but pride at being part of the competition and to any knockers she says: “We are ordinary women who have been given an extraordinary opportunity to represent ourselves and our communities in the best light possible on an international stage — there’s nothing demeaning about that.”
Simone Hendrick Buchanan, originally from Cork, grew up in Dingle, South Australia Rose
Being an ambassador for other women including her sister is what’s motivated Simone Hendrick Buchanan to be part of this year’s Rose Festival.
The 19-year-old was born in Cork’s Erinville Hospital and even though she grew up in Dingle she feels a strong connection to the Rebel county.
“My great aunt Marian lives in Cork and we used to always go up and visit her when I was younger. My mum studied at UCC and some of her closest friends live in Cork. It was always a meeting point for my family in Mahon Point and my stepdad used to play cricket in the Mardyke Arena,” she said.
Simone moved to Adelaide almost eight years ago when she was 11 with her mum, stepdad and sister and is now studying to become a primary school teacher and plans to specialise in music therapy. She plays the piano and is trained in jazz, ballet, contemporary and Irish dance.
“I moved to Australia in 2011. We went on a holiday there in 2009 for two months with my mum’s partner who is also Australian and we just loved it. We applied for a visa when we came back and moved back to trial living there for a year and we have been there ever since. I still return to Ireland every year to see my dad, brothers and other family that remain here,” she explained.
Considering that Dingle is only half an hour outside of Tralee, the festival has always been close to Simone.
“I remember going to the parades when I was really young and being so excited to meet the Roses. Then when I moved to Australia, our friend Louise Thompson was the South Australian Rose in 2013 so the Rose of Tralee became of more sentimental value because it was one of the only familiar Irish connections in Adelaide and it was a way to connect with my family at home. It was always something I planned on going for when I was older because it was so inspiring.
“I didn’t plan on going for it this year in particular but the opportunity arose and I felt as ready as I would ever be and I just went for it.
“My mum was so happy when I won, she actually jumped on stage in Australia in front of the judges and gave me the biggest hug!”
Simone feels that the main purpose of the Rose of Tralee is ‘about Irish woman from all around the world celebrating their Irish heritage’.
“It reunites so many families that have emigrated, even gives families a chance to meet that have never met before. It is also about lifting woman and being ambassadors for another young woman.”
Sarah O’Shea, Douglas, Western Canada Rose
Moving to Canada to pursue a career in engineering has helped Sarah O’Shea realise how proud she is of her Irish heritage.
The CIT graduate moved to Calgary, Alberta, in May, 2015 and has just started the process to become a Canadian citizen.
The structural engineer said the decision to apply to be the 2019 Western Canada Rose was an easy one.
“Growing up in Cork there were two staple TV events that we would look forward to every year, these included the Rose of Tralee and the Late Late Toy show. I have always loved the Rose of Tralee and what it represents and I always wanted to be one of the Roses.
“Calgary is such a diverse community that comprises of so many different nationalities, since moving there it has made me realise how important it is to be proud of my heritage and where I come from. The Rose of Tralee celebrates Irish women from all over the world and living in Calgary has made me realise how great the festival is for highlighting and celebrating Irish heritage.”
Sarah is adamant that the festival is about far more than just wearing a nice dress: “It celebrates the success of Irish women in society in relation to their careers, goals, ambitions and social responsibilities. Self-belief is something that has been instilled into me from a young age.
“My parents always taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be and I believed this.
“Participating in the Rose of Tralee was something I always wanted to do. My first priority since graduating was to establish myself in the engineering world as a strong and competent engineer, once I established myself in the professional world my next goal was to put myself forward for opportunities and amazing experiences like this one.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to represent Western Canada in this year’s Rose of Tralee. I feel very lucky and privileged. This is going to be an experience of a lifetime and something I will never forget!”
Laura Kennedy, Glenville, London Rose
For as long as she can remember, Laura Kennedy has dreamed of being a Rose and now it’s finally coming true.
The eldest of six, she grew up on a farm in Glenville and studied Business Information Systems (BIS) in UCC.
“As part of the degree, I undertook an internship in London with Credit Suisse which gave me my first taste of what it’s like to live in London. I remember during secondary school thinking I would love to live in a large, cosmopolitan city and after going to see some shows in the West End, I knew I had my sights set on London.
“After graduating I was offered me a full time role and so I moved back to London in 2014 shortly after finishing college.
“Last year I wanted to take on a new experience and so I moved company to work for UBS. I’ve been working at UBS over a year as an IT Business Analyst and Project Manager, working with various trading desks. It’s a really fast-paced role which I love.”
Laura loves her life in London but it’s been important for her to find an Irish community there.
“Through various Irish networks and societies in London, including the London Rose Centre, I’ve really been able to feel a sense of belonging.
“The London Irish community are and have always been incredibly supportive and it’s been fantastic to meet so many Irish people at various events since being selected as the London Rose. I really hope I can do them proud throughout the festival.
“Luckily for me, I have had overwhelming support from people at home in Cork too.”
The young woman has lots of experience in performing arts and musical theatre through the Montforts, which she hopes will stand to her for her on stage interview.
“I think the Rose of Tralee is an incredible platform for hard-working, ambitious and accomplished Irish women from around the world and I think the festival recognises the values of modern women in today’s society.
“I’m to spend time with my fellow like-minded Roses because we’re about to have the experience of a lifetime together making life-long memories and friendships.”
Rebecca Mazza, Sydney Rose, Kanturk family connections
24-year-old speech pathologist Rebecca Mazza has been busy catching up with her Irish family members, since she arrived in Ireland to take part in the Rose Tralee — including her Cork relatives.
During previous visits to Ireland, Rebecca, who grew up in Perth, but now works in Sydney, with children and adults with speech and communication disorders, said: “I was privileged to learn more about my ancestors and their stories have deepened my understanding of who I am and where I come from. “
She said: “Since applying for the Rose of Tralee, I have further developed my confidence, met countless strong women, and have gained a new ‘Sydney Rose family’ who have made this experience unforgettable.
“I am absolutely honoured to be representing the Sydney Irish community at the Rose of Tralee Festival this year.”